Growing up, I think I played every sport imaginable. Whether it was in the backyard with friends or on official teams, you name it and I played it. Basketball, soccer, roller hockey, baseball, lacrosse, tennis, ice hockey, football. Sprinting up and down the street, trying grab the net at the local parks. I ran a lot, jumped up and down, jumped side to side, juked left and right, hopped this way and that way. On grass. On dirt. On concrete. On the hardwood. On those lovely rubber recreation center floors.
I did it because it was fun. And it seemed like every kid in the neighborhood was running around doing the exact same things.
Today, kids don’t play. Well, they do play their favorite sport or the sport that they are “good” at, but rather many choose to only play one sport. They play one sport year round, work with private trainers three to four times each week, and focus on that one track. Parents are happy to see their children focused on a single activity where they can see tangible progress and development. Trainers and coaches are happy to promise intensely detailed (and expensive) workouts meant to put your child on the road to the pros.
While everyone might be happy with Jack or Jill playing a single sport, a great deal can be learned by playing multiple sports during a child’s growth and development. Every sport offers unique mental and physical challenges and opportunities for development. In many cases, team sports require communication, acceptance of roles and responsibilities, and the desire to achieve things as a group. Individual sports require increased mental fortitude, increased positive internal monologues, and a developed comfort with training and competing in an isolated manner.
Physically, playing different sports will force one’s body to move in different ways on different surfaces. Running and cutting on grass is much lower impact than running straight on a track. Some sports require coordinated hands while others require coordinated feet. Many require both.
In reality, a multidimensional and dynamic athlete will have ample opportunities to grow muscle movements that are different from the “specialized” athlete. And an incredible athlete is typically offered many opportunities to specialize in a variety of sports. In waiting to specialize, your child is less likely to burn out mentally and physically. Multiple sports will keep them mentally fresh and will keep them from physically putting too much strain on tendons and ligaments.
So, this school year, let your kids play all the sports. It doesn’t matter what sport it is. If they ask to play, please do everything to let them play. They may end up playing a sport you know nothing about. They may end up being terrible at it. They may even hate it. But that could also be the sport that gets them a trip to some place they’ve never been, a college scholarship, even a professional contract! At the very least, they will be exposed to some new things and might even make some new friends.
[Image courtesy of Google Images/EHM Sports]